Like everyone, I was horrified to watch the news come out of France. I was so hoping the videos plastered across social media of flames dancing through Notre Dame were CGI fake news, and when I watched the spire collapse it was almost surreal. Many people noted that there was an ironic, destructive elegance in all of it fitting for one of the most beautiful sites in the world. Even in her collapse, Notre Dame was dignified.
But it didn’t take long for the vultures to swoop in—in fact, she hadn’t even fallen yet. Still ablaze, and social media did what it did best: bring out the brazen ideologues. Shortly after the situation intensified, journalist Andy Ngo started a running thread compiling the many gleeful reactions to Notre Dame’s destruction that emerged on Twitter.
There was a theme in those comments which celebrated the fire—that France was somehow getting karmic justice for its colonial past. Many of the commenters, political vampires in how they seek a fresh disaster and drain the sensibility from it, repeated the same, pseudo-enlightened lines about France having “destroyed” other cultures, and that Notre Dame contained “stolen” relics from France’s colonial endeavours.
To be clear, France’s first actual colonial enterprise was in Acadia—now, New Brunswick, Canada—in 1605. It did not have an African colony, Algeria, until 1830. Notre Dame completed construction in 1260, 345 years prior to any dastardly French colonialisms. And there were no “stolen” artifacts inside Notre Dame, unless a piece of the true cross—olive wood from the crucifix which is purported to have been the one Jesus Christ died upon—is counted. That is from the Middle East, technically.
In other words, Notre Dame is innocent of the charges being waged against her. She was not built or filled with the exploits from colonialism. But these political vampires would have no way of knowing this, their interest in Notre Dame only arose when there was an edgy, woke virtue to be signalled, and will dissipate just as fast.
The first thing I thought of when reading through the plethora of garbage from the woke commentariat was how these people can purport to be taking this stance on behalf of the “colonized” when 69% of the world’s Roman Catholics are in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Oceana. Non-European people in non-European countries who would be horribly devastated by the destruction of a religiously significant site containing artifacts dating to the time of Christ. Of course, a good deal of these people were converted via colonialism, but that means nothing in this moment.
If a mosque were to burn in Indonesia, would these people think the Indonesian Muslims would celebrate it because they were converted from their indigenous faith through religious colonialism? Of course not. The religion has become deeply engrained in their culture over time, as has Catholicism to hundreds of millions of the formerly-colonized. Further, the time of Notre Dame’s destruction comes on the eve of Easter, one of the holiest of celebrations for Catholics worldwide.
But of course, it is no surprise to anyone that the political vampires have no real concern for the actual subjects of their supposed activism, if tears will be shed in Catholic churches from Panama to Nigeria over the loss. And if they’ve no concern for the poor, marginalized voices they imbue their benevolence upon, then how could they have any for anything else? Certainly, none for the immense loss of history—a building of over 850 years of age that has seen and survived crusades, revolutions, and occupations.
They absolutely cannot see the inherent value in such a very ancient place. It can offer nothing useful to the political vampire—no slogans, no campaigns, and certainly no agreement with their positions—so it must be worthless or evil and deserving of destruction. The very thing that made Notre Dame beautiful to many, that it was simply an observer of life, is lost on them. Because it did not speak, it must have been complicit in anything anyone may have done wrong in its near-millennia long existence. That it could not speak is irrelevant to them.
And I suppose that is sad, isn’t it? Not being able to see the beauty in the world. Feeling more contented by the sight of a pile of smouldering ash and rubble than by the delicate handiwork of a loving artisan. If that is what you become when you sell your soul to be woke, I’m quite happy to keep mine and take a nap.